My name is Evan and I am a remodeling contractor in the East Bay. I bought 1927 major fixer upper house in Oakland featured on this website. The 6 years previous to buying this house, I had spent "flipping" three houses - one from 1915, one from 1921 and one from 1954 - all in Oakland. These were extremely run down, disgusting and needing major system upgrades. While I was at it, it made sense to reunify the style of the house. It was a fun challenge to modernize the houses while trying to re-infuse bits of their original style so that everything the house would feel fresh and whole again. It was also very draining to inject so much hard work and love and design into these projects so I began to dream of getting a house that had original charm that would give me joy and inspiration to restore - rather than a complete rebuild. Every old house is going to need work - but I wanted to focus on systems upgrades - plumbing, electrical, etc. - rather than to re-imagine the entire house.
For my next house, I had been looking at some old Craftsman type houses that had original trim and built in cabinets and maybe an old kitchen from the '50s that was still in good shape with a Wedgewood stove or something like that... A house with original charm that I could keep basically as-is appearance-wise save some paint, plumbing, flooring, trim or electrical here and there. The kind of thing that would feel like a simple project compared to the complete disasters I had been working on.
I started dating Christina around the time I was finishing up the last - a 1954 Mid Century Modern home (which was really easy to update and a fun style to play around with). We had gone to an estate sale at a Carr Jones house and we were both blown away by the whimsical feel - an unusual floor plan with many changes in levels and ceiling heights and odd little stairways of different sizes winding about - all coated with a rustic "hobbit house" kind of feeling. This was not just original period charm - this was real architecture! It wasn't just trim and tile appointments. It was the attention to the space and how it would make you feel. And it this case - it was intended to inspire of feeling of wonder. Shelter is such an ancient human need that it has been very much connected to practicality. Ornate embellishments are like clothing of the era - but it doesn't really alter the basic fact that most floor plans are simple rectangles. The 1915 A-Frame craftsman house had the classic floor plan. The upper level was three bedrooms, connected by a hall, with a bathroom and some stairs that went down next the the front door where they connected to the living room, dining room, kitchen and second bathroom. This Carr Jones was like the opposite of that - and it could only be done by an architect. A contractor is not going to design a house like that because he knows how hard and complicated it will be to build.
So you can imagine Christina and I fell in love with the magical, whimsical, and strange features of the house on this website when we came to the open houses. I joked, "I love it! I'll take it!" I didn't even think I had a chance. Christina studied architecture at UC Berkeley and she was equally enamored of the house we ended up being lucky enough to buy. The kicker has to be the stairs that wind around over the chimney in the living room and go up to the master bedroom. Everyone is blown away by that because it is so magical and ridiculous that someone would build something like that when there are much easier and simpler ways to get from point A to point B. A cube house would be a much more logical way to go - and that's the foundation of nearly all houses - but this was real architecture! To be frank, I really did not think that was in my budget.
During the purchase process, an unusual amount of its history was disclosed to me in a large packet. As I was doing research and reading through the packet, the name Bernard Maybeck was mentioned. The documents seemed to suggest it was designed by the preeminent California Beaux Arts architect, first UC Berkeley architectural drawing professor and mentor to Julia Morgan, among others. The house has a magic that can't really be described, one similar to those I had seen later in books about Maybeck’s work. Like other houses I've worked on, it has had many layers of work done. Fortunately, the majority of work was in the form of additions - meaning most of the cool and weird original Maybeck features are intact.
Now that I own the home, "Phase I" is to get the house livable. The current house is a 3/3, about 2671 square feet, with large (for Oakland) 1/4 acre lot. The original 1927 house was a 1 bedroom 2 bath, about 1600 sf. The original house was designed by Maybeck and built by Volney Rowland, according to the building permit and Rowland visit letter. The original house appears to be full-on Maybeck - amazing design and attention to detail - though some details of the tile and carpentry were Rowland or the client's decisions as they are a little different than other Maybecks. The '39-40 additions (music room & breakfast nook) seem to be from a Maybeck sketch (more later about this theory) with Rowland building again and it's pretty cool but not as amazing as the original. The further additions a 2 bedroom 1 bath in the back - is a mediocre attempt to match the original style. These three sections warrant different restorations. The original house design deserves great attention to detail and a careful restoration - always keeping in mind the original intentions of the designer. The Rowland additions deserve to be preserved though minor updates are acceptable. The back additions are not sacred and can be remodeled in any way I see fit.
a) get a working bathroom (check)
b) move into the house, organize the bedroom and put in place many of the major pieces of furniture as determined by each room's intended use (mostly check)
c) clean up the original kitchen and improve functionality without fundamental alterations to the layout or original cabinets and windows. (check)
d) begin to mow down the vast overgrowth of trees and begin to create a garden and outdoor space
e) do the vast majority of the plumbing supply lines changeover to copper. I found out many of the original galvanized steel pipes were completely blocked upon moving in. (check, ALL NEW COPPER PIPES)
f) add gas line for stove and gas dryer (both orig. electric) and add a stackable laundry (check)
a) repair rafters and do the roof shingles over 3" foam insulation. This is a huge job (mostly check - awaiting rafter and eave paint restoration)
b) master bath - add tub, do a cool tile design on the floor and shower
c) get the back bath working (check)
d) have some large trees removed
e) re-support breakfast nook (check)
f) heating - rebuild entire heating system
Phase 3 (?):
a) front yard
b) driveway and front retaining wall
c) garage water and elec sub panel
e) front balcony and kitchen balcony
and on and on...